The year I spent only $23 at Target

I don’t live in the middle of nowhere. It’s a 10 minute walk from my house to Target- and there’s probably three more within five miles of me. And, no, I wasn’t trying to annoy my family with another year challenge.

the-year-i-only-spentReally, it started because of my brother-in-law.

In a random conversation I mentioned that I was sad that one of my favorite local small businesses had closed. My brother-in-law responded, “Well, when was the last time you shopped there?”

Hmm… when was it? A month ago? Two?

As a small business owner, I know how important each and every sale is. I’m well familiar with the happy dance when someone chooses to buy from a small shop, rather than compare the price on Amazon and opt to save a buck or two instead.

Sure, November’s Small Business Saturday is great, but local shops need our true support more than one day a year… unless we want endless rows of big box chain stores… oh wait.

So, in 2013 I pledged to go one year shopping ONLY small business. No Target. No Jewel. No chain restaurants.

Ok- there were a couple exceptions:

  1. gas
  2. contact solution (I’m one of few people in the world who still wears gas permeable lenses, so I get solution wherever I can find it… the $23 at Target)
  3. whatever my husband bought (considering I did 90% of the grocery, gift, daily essential shopping, I figured I could let the other 10% go).

As people found out about my 365 day challenge I heard two things…

  • You’re crazy
  • You’ll spend a fortune

Ironically, I’m ridiculous about tracking virtually every dime I spend, so comparing the cost would be simple.

Oh yeah, in the beginning I also heard “can’t we just go to Target, it’s RIGHT HERE!” from my kids (11 and 12 at the time) at least once a week.

In all honesty, I thought the same thing more than once.

But, here’s a few things that changed for me and my family during that year…

We quickly discovered the difference between need and want. Remember in “We Bought A Zoo” when Benjamin asks if they really need butter… “it’s 9 miles to the store each way… are you sure we need it?” Yeah, I asked that question often… are you sure we need it?

Instead of running out to buy a new bottle of shampoo… we first finished the bottles tucked under the sink that weren’t favorites. Instead of running out to buy a missing ingredient… we substituted something already in the pantry.

Decluttering without really trying.

People are passionate about their small shops. As I wrote about the shops I found, people were eager to share their stories about them as well… an uncle that painted the mural on the original Nuevo Leon… years of birthday and wedding cakes from Fleckenstein’s Bakery… a reader happy to have a taste of home after I found Pie Boss in Aurora.

Even more remarkable were the number of people excited to share their favorite small shops for me to visit. Every out of state hockey or baseball tournament… every weekend away… every new town offered new local favorites to find.

Our food changed. Even though we didn’t typically hit fast-food often, they were always an option in a pinch. Until 2013. When you take away the convenience of drive-thrus, planning ahead for meals and snacks becomes a little more important.

That’s not to say we didn’t ever have burgers and fries, we just found more local restaurants…. and ice cream shops.

Was it more expensive than a dollar menu? Absolutely.

But… ironically, paying more makes the sweet treats and fries makes them what they should be… a rare occasion.

And, it meant cooking more at home.

The worst part of the challenge…  saying goodbye as store owners that always asked about my dog shuttered their doors. Adorable shops closing their dream because customers want things faster and cheaper.

It’s interesting that our world is more connected than ever, yet we’re also more alone than ever.  We can get everything we need- from groceries to underwear- without ever stepping foot in a store…

or speaking to another person.

We spend more time watching videos of people we’ve never met, than listening to the stories of those in the same room.

We worry more about avoiding carbs, than forgotten family recipes.

Fast. Cheap. Easy.

Has this ever been the solution to success? to health? to happiness?

But the real question everyone wants to know… did I spend a fortune shopping small?

The difference between 2012 and 2013 expenses was less than $200.

It wasn’t fast. It wasn’t cheap. And it definitely wasn’t easy.

But damn it was worth it.

Would you do it?

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